Japan introduces roundabout junctions nationwide

Written by: William on September 3, 2014 at 9:04 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

People from Britain, like myself, often forget that many other countries don’t have roundabouts. The idea of a circular junction with no traffic lights, where the unspoken rules of the road define who gives way and who pulls out and when — this frankly baffles non-Britons when they first witness the workings of one of the nation’s iconic roundabouts.

While standardized and made famous in the UK during the 1990′s, there are roundabouts today in places as far apart as Qatar, New Zealand, China and France. And now Japan.

There has been some speculation about Japan introducing signal-less roundabouts in the past but they’ve finally done it. There are 15 operating in 7 prefectures around Japan, as of September 1st. There are actually around 140 circular intersections in Japan, with some of these now legally designated as roundabouts.

japan roundabout junction roads

In 2012 six unsignalized intersections were tested in Karuizawa, Nagano, and then further tests were carried out in Shizuoka and Shiga prefectures.

Motorists in Japan, with its danger of electrical blackouts from the frequent earthquakes and other natural disasters, are actually possibly safer off with roundabouts, as they can be used without power. Roundabouts are not only better for the environment, they are also said to reduce accidents.

And if the idea of giving way to oncoming motorists without a signal to tell you to stop sounds like a recipe for traffic mayhem, remember that the Japanese a polite bunch. We predict the roundabout will be a success in this land of small cars and good manners.

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JR Tokai files for permission to build maglev train line between Nagoya and Tokyo

Written by: William on August 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Now this is going to be fast.

Kyodo News has reported that Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) has formally filed an application today with the Japanese transport ministry to build a maglev (magnetically levitated train) line between Tokyo and Nagoya.

Maglevs in Japan go back to the 1980′s. There are two trains, HSST by Japan Airlines and SCMaglev by the Central Japan Railway Company. The HSST train uses imported German technology, making the SCMaglev Japan’s only real homegrown maglev. One of the HSST models is the popular Linimo train, built for the 2005 Expo in Aichi, though it is relatively slow by maglev standards.

jr tokai central railway japan scmaglev tokyo nagoya construction 2027

JR Tokai’s SCMaglev (Superconducting Maglev) started development back in 1969 but went through a radical redesign in time for a new test in 1987. Tests have been continuing on special tracks in Miyazaki and Yamanashi. In 2003 the SCMaglev achieved record speeds of 581 km/h (361 mph). The government deemed it ready for commercial rollout in 2009 and since then plans have been proceeding for the new linking the capital and Japan’s third city, to be followed by a further line connecting Nagoya with Osaka by 2045.

If the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry give the go-ahead, JR Tokai may start building the new SCMaglev in October, though we will have to wait until at least 2027 before the actual line is operational! But if that sounds like a long time to twiddle your thumbs, then consider how time you (or your kids) will save hopping from Tokyo to Nagoya in the future. As we know, the Shinkansen bullet train is fast. But this maglev will cut the 100 minutes that express takes down to a mere 40! Once extended to Osaka, a trip between Tokyo and Kansai will be just over an hour.

The cost of the construction of what may be the world’s fastest train is estimated at ¥9 trillion.

JR Tokai and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also hope that the SCMaglev will be adopted in America as an intercity system fit to meet the challenges of such a vast nation.

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Batman spotted driving the Batpod on expressway in Chiba

Written by: William on August 25, 2014 at 11:01 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Batman no longer lives in Gotham. He’s fighting crime in Japan!

Japanese social media has been abuzz with some amazing images of Batman driving in his Batpod along the highways in the Tokyo area.

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

Okay, it’s not quite as good as it sounds. This “Batman” was spotted by motorists on the roads of Chiba, the prefecture next to Tokyo.

Some images of “Chi-battoman” (Chibatman), as he’s been dubbed, was snapped on Sunday afternoon and the images went viral on Twitter.

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

Other pictures soon followed.

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

All right, it’s not exactly Christopher Nolan but you’d still be impressed if you saw this Caped Crusader drive past you on the expressway.

We’d not sure how legal this Batpod is. At least at one point the driver attracted the attention of the police.

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

Of course, cosplay (costume play) on the mean streets of Japan is nothing new.

In the past we’ve seen motorcycle parades zipping around Roppongi and Harajuku with quite spectacular results.

And if you want to drive around the city like you’re playing Mario Kart for real, you should check out Akiba Cart in Akihabara. It rents out go-karts that can be driven legally on regular roads. Not surprisingly, it attracts plenty of fun video game cosplay.

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Mika Ninagawa-designed Shibuya Chikamichi Lounge now open underneath Shibuya Station as rest stop for underground stylish shoppers

Written by: William on July 29, 2014 at 9:43 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Shibuya is like a hydra. Just when you think you have it sussed, along comes yet another shopping arcade or mall to confuse you.

Earlier this year Tokyu opened the Shibuya Chikamichi Lounge underneath Shibuya Station. The space is a bit hard to define (information portal? rest stop?), though we think it’s pretty typical of the kind of consumer spaces you often find in Japan. After all, in Shibuya Center Gai there is also the Blue Windy Lounge “smoking room” sponsored by a tobacco company, and other stations around the city feature special spaces for women to get massages and beauty treatment.

Shibuya Chikamichi (“underground street”) Lounge has toilets and baby room facilities but it’s more than just an amenity. It has a women-only “powder room” and a men-only “dressing room” (this is Shibuya, the men like to look their best too), though be warned the wifi in the main lounge is “fake wifi”, i.e. only a booster for certain domestic network providers.

shibuya chikamichi lounge tokyu space station underground

Okay, so Tokyu lost a point there but make up for it in the lounge’s friendly and pop interior vibe. Perhaps the only thing it’s “missing” is an actual cafe or coffee bar, though there’s no shortage of those in Shibuya, of course.

Tokyu says this is the first station facility of its kind but we also like how the functionality has not taken precedence over how the place looks. The powder room features designs by photographer and film director Mika Ninagawa and the men’s room is also suitably snazzy and colorful.

shibuya chikamichi lounge tokyu space station underground

Overseas visitors may also be interested to learn that in the lounge, among the desks and sofas for relaxing is a concierge who speaks English and can help out lost tourists trying to navigate the subterranean maze of Shibuya. (Officially he or she will be there to give out information about Shibuya trains.)

shibuya chikamichi lounge tokyu space station underground

Open 10:00-20:00, Shibuya Chikamichi Lounge is located between the underground shopping plaza in Shibuya and Shibuya 109, and is free to use.

shibuya chikamichi lounge tokyu space station underground

Tokyu is on a mission to transform Shibuya, a program of powerhouse developments it launched with the Shibuya Hikarie building it opened in 2012 (so posh it even has its own Swarovski-designed Lawson convenience store) and then its merger of the old above-ground Toyoko Line with the underground Fukutoshin Line last year. Several others are on the way. By 2027 it plans a further five large buildings. Shibuya will evolve further for train passengers when the JR Station also puts both Yamanote Lines onto one island platform and moves the notoriously distant Saikyo Line to a more accessible location. This is all going to be part of a new 46-storey station building with offices and shops. After all, if there’s one thing Shibuya lacks, it’s new construction work. Oh, wait…

shibuya chikamichi lounge tokyu space station underground

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JR West traditional crafts tourist train gets decorated with Wajima lacquer and Kaga Yuzen kimono dyeing design

Written by: William on July 10, 2014 at 10:56 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

JR West has announced a special new tourism train that will run between Kanazawa and Wakura hot spring in 2015.

Kanazawa, known as a “mini Kyoto”, is the main city in Ishikawa Prefecture, which sticks out on the west coast of Japan in the Hokuriku region. The prefecture is famed for its sushi, kimono dyeing, lacquerware, gold leaf, and other traditional crafts. Along with Kanazawa, another major center for the arts is Wajima, a small city located further along the Noto peninsular.

jr west wakura onsen kanazawa tourism sightseeing train lacquerware wajima kaga yuzen crafts traditional design

Not surprisingly then, the new JR West train’s interior and exterior is inspired by the wa and bi (Japanese beauty) of Wajima lacquer and Kaga Yuzen, a local kimono silk fabric dyeing technique (Kaga was the old samurai domain when the Maeda clan ruled Ishikawa before the Meiji Restoration).

The crafts train starts running in October 2015. It has capacity for 52 passengers in two carriages, including private cabins. The carriages are differently designed, either with Wajima lacquer or Kaga Yuzen themes. It will run for around 150 days a year on weekends and holidays.

jr west wakura onsen kanazawa tourism sightseeing train lacquerware wajima kaga yuzen crafts traditional design

JR often creates special trains for sightseeing lines. Along with Japanese prefectures’ penchant for yuru-kyara mascots, it is one of the most successful tactics for luring local tourists. They go as much for the experience of the transportation — whether it be kitsch or luxury — as to visit the place itself. JR West also recently teamed up with Sanrio to create a Hello Kitty locomotive for Wakayama Prefecture.

jr west wakura onsen kanazawa tourism sightseeing train lacquerware wajima kaga yuzen crafts traditional design

Kanazawa is anticipating a huge boost to its already fairly large tourism industry when the extension of the Shinkansen bullet train from Nagano to Kanazawa opens in spring 2015. While Kansai sightseers can take the Thunderbird express from Osaka to Kanazawa, until now Kanto folk had no equivalent and usually change in Niigata to the slower coastal train that passes down through Niigata, Toyama to Ishikawa. With the Shinkansen, they will be able to take one express from Tokyo straight to Kanazawa.

[Via Nippon.com]

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Goodsmile Racing’s new Hatsune Miku GT racing bikes are awesome

Written by: William on June 25, 2014 at 9:19 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Following the 2013 bikes and other merchandise, HRM Goodsmile Racing Bike Project has created three new snazzy Hatsune Miku racing bikes.

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

The Racing Miku Hatsune Miku GT comes in three models: HRM-Extreme (for racing), HMR-9 (high performance model for hills and slopes), and HRM-x (the fashionista’s choice).

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

The bikes are only made to order and come with eye-watering price tags. The HRM-Extreme comes in at ¥580,000 ($5,700) plus tax, while the HRM-9 and HRM-x are more reasonable ¥198,000 ($2,000) and ¥138,000 ($1,300) plus tax respectively.

Made using super lightweight esrMagnesia metal alloy, the bikes also include many components produced by top bike parts maker Shimano.

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

Goodsmile Racing has been competing in Japan’s famous Super GT car race in Vocaloid idol-themed vehicles for several years now.

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

Now they are holding the GSR Cup Cycle Race on September 6th at the New Tokyo Circuit. Look out for Hatsune Miku bikes galore!

goodsmile racing gsr hatsune miku gt race bike hrm x

And if Hatsune Miku isn’t quite to your taste or if you can’t get enough of cute anime girls, you can also get Love Plus cycling jerseys and water bottles, based on the popular SIM dating game.

love plus bike water bottle

love-plus-bike-jersey

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JR West creates Hello Kitty train for Wakayama tourism this autumn

Written by: William on June 18, 2014 at 9:03 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Japan Rail knows how to attract customers. In between rolling out snazzy new bullet trains and other technological advances, it periodically customizes JR Yamanote Line trains to look like a chocolate product or a manga and anime franchise.

From September, a special Hello Kitty Wakayama Train will be running on JR lines as part of its Wakayama Destination Campaign. The sightseeing train will be an express with all seats reserved.

hello kitty train wakayama tourism campaign

JR has consulted with locals and got advice about the sightseeing spots to include on the design. The prefecture is famed for the sacred sites and pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountain Range, a UNESCO World Heritage site for ten years now. Southern Wakayama is also home to Taiji, one of the (controversial) centers of Japanese traditional coastal whaling and dolphin hunting, and its Whale Museum is on of the tourist destinations featured on the train, along with a uniformed Hello Kitty.

The interior of the train will also be painted with characters but the design has yet to be announced.

hello kitty train wakayama tourism campaign

Although JR West is trying to push how it has worked hard to find a design that shows off the locality of the region, we have yet to find a tangible reason for the choice of Hello Kitty other than her apparently universal popularity (after all, Kitty-chan is not even Japanese, she is meant to be British). Perhaps someone can enlighten us? Sanrio, never afraid to license out its character to all and sundry, must be happy with the extra coffers, though.

The Hello Kitty Wakayama Train will be running for 33 days on weekends and holidays from September 13th to December 14th, 2014.

Wakayama must have a thing for felines and locomotives. The fortunes of the small Kishigawa Line were famously reversed by the promotion of Tama the cat to station master.

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Ex-AKB48 Mariko Shinoda gets own Peach airplane

Written by: William on October 28, 2013 at 11:35 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 3 Comments

Can’t get enough of your favorite (ex-)AKB48 starlet? Now you can a take a flight “inside” her vessel.

Okay, enough with the puerile references, though AKB48 is hardly a stranger to dubious not-so-subtle sexual overtones.

mariko shinoda akb48 peach airplane jet plane cabin attendant

Local LCC Peach Aviation launched its first Narita route yesterday with flights now taking passengers from Osaka to Tokyo for less than ¥4,000 one-way. To celebrate, they got former AKB princess Mariko Shinoda to help them promote the service and even specially decorated a whole aircraft in her likeness!

mariko shinoda akb48 peach airplane jet plane cabin attendant

The Airbus A320-200 — aka the “Mariko jet” — looked about as glitzy and cutesy as you can get, while Mariko no doubt made a lot of fantasies come true by dressing up as a cabin attendant for the occasion.

According to the official press release, for what it’s worth, Mariko apparently designed the uniform and plane herself!

mariko shinoda akb48 peach airplane jet plane cabin attendant

mariko shinoda akb48 peach airplane jet plane cabin attendant

She then saw off the first passengers from the terminal gate with a radiant smile and a high-five for everyone, before boarding and flying on the plane (her plane?) herself.

mariko shinoda akb48 peach airplane jet plane cabin attendant

We can only imagine what it must feel like to have an entire airplane painted in your own Big-Brother-Is-Watching-You-like size portrait.

mariko shinoda akb48 peach airplane jet plane cabin attendant

Now a whopping 27 years old — positively ancient by idol standards — Shinoda’s popularity amongst AKB48 fans appears to show no signs of flagging, despite her age forcing her to make that venture out into the post-AKB desert. Apparently the sky’s the limit! Or is it rather that her career is up in the air? After, Peach is no ANA or JAL.

mariko shinoda akb48 peach airplane jet plane cabin attendant

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Typhoon Wipha, biggest in ten years, hits Tokyo

Written by: William on October 17, 2013 at 8:12 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

It was the largest typhoon to hit Tokyo in ten years and, as expected, yesterday morning brought havoc to the city.

The once-in-a-decade storm, Typhoon Wipha, was even worse in the Izu peninsular, where dozens are missing and nearly 20 dead.

While all eyes were initially on Fukushima and how the nuclear power plants would cope with the rainfall, the downpour and high winds caused chaos for transport in Tokyo, and hundreds of flights and bullet trains were cancelled.

In Tokyo, one woman died after falling into a river.

To get a sense of what it was like trying to go to work as normal on a typhoon-hit Wednesday, take a look at the watery images that Japan’s internet users have been sharing.

typhoon wipha hit tokyo big storm ten years decade

typhoon wipha hit tokyo big storm ten years decade

typhoon wipha hit tokyo big storm ten years decade

typhoon wipha hit tokyo big storm ten years decade

typhoon wipha hit tokyo big storm ten years decade

typhoon wipha hit tokyo big storm ten years decade

typhoon wipha hit tokyo big storm ten years decade

typhoon wipha hit tokyo big storm ten years decade

typhoon wipha hit tokyo big storm ten years decade

[Source: Matome Naver]

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